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Virginia Tech Co. burns LGBTQ poster at company party- then apologizes

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC

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Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC

ASHBURN, Va. – The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

A customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds, made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Virginia

Anti-LGBTQ dominates ‘divisive’ subjects tip line FOIA suit shows

The media outlets involved in the FOIA lawsuit include the Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and Washington D.C.’s NBC 4

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WASHINGTON – A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that several media outlets filed has revealed Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s tip line about the teaching of “divisive” subjects in the state’s schools received hundreds of emails.

The Washington Post on Thursday reported complaints about LGBTQ students and topics in schools are among the emails received.

“These books are, in my opinion, making children desensitized to healthy sexual relationships and are grooming in nature,” said a Spotsylvania County mother. 

Other parents said they were concerned about gender identity being taught in schools.

Youngkin shortly after he took office in January announced the tip line to which parents could have used to report the teaching of “divisive” subjects. Youngkin during an appearance with John Fredericks on “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” earlier this year did not specifically say whether parents should report teachers who are teaching about LGBTQ issues.

Youngkin’s administration in September shut down the tip line.

The Post and other media outlets filed the FOIA lawsuit in April.

Youngkin claimed the tip line emails fell under the FOIA exemption for a governor’s “working papers and correspondence.” The hundreds of emails that were released were just a fraction of the total number of tips, since the media outlets suing for this information claimed that the exemption Youngkin used did not apply to the tip lines since those were shared with individuals outside of the governor’s office. 

The media outlets involved in this lawsuit include the Post, the Associated Press, NPR and Washington D.C.’s NBC 4. 

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Virginia Education Dept. holds hearing on revision of trans policies

The majority of speakers who spoke at the Oct. 20 meeting expressed their opposition to the proposed revisions

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Members of the Pride Liberation Project hold signs supporting LGBTQ youth at a Fairfax County School Board meeting. The Virginia Department of Education on Oct. 20, 2022, heard testimony for proposed revisions to guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – The Virginia Department of Education on Thursday heard testimony on Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed revisions to guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The majority of speakers who spoke at the meeting expressed their opposition to the proposed revisions. They included students and parents who are worried about their trans and nonbinary children. 

 “If you enact these policies, children will die,” said trans student Guin Hartinger. 

Nancy Kunkel said she lives in constant fear of losing her trans daughter to suicide. 

The policies that are being proposed would force students to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex, rather than their gender identity. Trans students and their allies across Virginia have protested Youngkin’s proposed revisions to the guidelines that his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020.

Equality Virginia and their supporters attended Thursday’s meeting and have expressed their opposition to the proposed policy revisions online.

The public comment period ends on Oct. 26.

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Virginia

Virginia school board passes LGBTQ History Month recognition

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, & families from discrimination”

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Students and community activists gather for a rally outside Luther Jackson Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 6. (Photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – A group of more than 200 activists gathered outside of Luther Jackson Middle School in Vienna on Thursday to object to the new “model policies” for transgender students proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

Many activists have voiced support for the policies enacted by the General Assembly and former Gov. Ralph Northam, which were intended to protect LGBTQ students in general, and trans and gender nonconforming students in particular. However, the Youngkin administration released revisions on Sept. 16 that differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The activists oppose the revised “model policies” for including the mandate that students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and the restriction of students to be able to change their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

Activists from the student-led Pride Liberation Project were joined by state Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), educators, students, concerned community members and activists from the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Pride in FCPS and the Democratic Socialists of America ahead of the Fairfax County School Board meeting before it took place inside the middle school.

McLean High School senior Casey Calabia, a Pride Liberation Project organizer, spoke to the crowd.

“When I came here this afternoon, I made the active choice to forget the probability and statistics test I have because how can these classes mean anything to me when my rights are at risk, when my safety in a classroom is at risk,” said Calabia. “Education is not for parents, education is not for teachers, it is not for your next political agenda, education is for students.”

“It is to bring up the next generation to be competent, to be kind, to be loving and to feel safe where they deserve to be safe,” added Calabia. “How can my county do anything but make the necessary move for our education to keep us better? To keep us safe?”

“When it’s hard, when we face resistance, there are tons of people and thousands more that come to places like this to stand up for trans kids, to stand up for queer kids,” Calabia said. “I am proud that I get to honor a long-standing tradition of queerness, of being nonbinary, of being transgender. It is something I’m privileged to do every single day of my life. So it is here at FCPS that I’m grateful to everyone continuing to help defend my right to thrive. Every single one of my fellow students, teachers, staff and community members equally deserves their right to thrive.”

Fairfax County students were joined at the rally by parents like Laura Stokes.

“I’m a very proud parent of a trans nonbinary fourth grader in FCPS,” Stokes told the assembled activists.

“Whenever Youngkin says he’s about ‘respecting parents’ choice,’ I don’t feel like I’m reflected in that statement. What about parents like me?” Stokes asked. “I don’t see myself in that proposal. I don’t see myself in that policy.”

David Walrod of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers admonished the Youngkin administration.

“What we have seen from Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education is unconscionable, reprehensible,” Walrod said.

“We’ve seen governors use students as political pawns before.” Walrod charged. “We’ve seen governors like Gregg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida create the most dehumanizing laws against LGBTQ students that they could think of. The Virginia legislature saw past the political games and they saw human beings, they saw students, they saw children.”

“The Northam administration supported these efforts and created policies meant to protect students, promote inclusion and equity and give students a chance to thrive,” Walrod continued. “Gov. Youngkin and Supt. Ballow on the other hand have shown us they don’t believe members of the LGBTQ+ community are worthy of protection. They’ve shown us that they support demonizing students to score political points.”

“I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Glenn Youngkin,” Walrod said. “I ask the school board to say ‘no’ to Jillian Ballow and I ask the Fairfax County School Board to say ‘yes’ to giving students the ability to be themselves.”

Following the rally, activists filed into the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium for the Fairfax County School Board’s public meeting.

Board Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer began the meeting with a statement prepared by the board and acknowledged the large crowd of LGBTQ student activists in attendance.

“The Fairfax County School Board understands that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families are worried about the impact of Gov. Youngkin’s proposed model policies for transgender and gender-expansive students,” Heizer read into the public record. “Nearly one in five transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide in the last year. LGBTQIA+ youth who found their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. It is necessary to ensure our school community is a place where all students can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, harassment or violence.”

“Our policies and regulations will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, and families. Fairfax County School Board Policy 1450 protects students, educators, and other staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Heizer continued.

Heizer then listed the protections outlined in FCPS Regulation 2603 and reiterated the board’s commitment to the Viriginia Human Rights Act, Title IX and the “settled law of Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board,” requiring respect for students’ gender identity.

“Protecting, supporting and affirming our transgender and gender-expansive students is critical to achieving a safe and respectful learning environment for all students, and providing them with equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. The work to do so in a holistically inclusive way continues, but we know that, from this commitment, we will not waiver,” concluded Heizer.

The board later unanimously passed a resolution introduced by member Karl Frisch (Providence District) recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in Fairfax County Public Schools.

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Virginia

HS Students in Virginia stage massive walk-outs over Trans policy

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools across the state

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Youth activists in schools across Virginia walked out of class to rally against proposed changes to school policy for LGBTQ students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY – Thousands of students in schools across Virginia participated in walkouts and rallies on Tuesday to oppose the revised “model policies” on transgender students released by the Virginia Department of Education.

VDOE policy revisions were released on Sept. 16 and differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The original policies on the treatment of trans students were intended to protect LGBTQ students; but the revised “model policies” have been criticized by activists, educators and legislators for mandating students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and bars students from changing their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project responded to these policy changes by organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools from Alexandria to Williamsburg.

“These proposed guidelines are essentially taking that cornerstone and using it to undermine our rights. If these guidelines are implemented, it will be the single biggest loss for queer rights in Virginia in years,” Natasha Sanghvi, a student organizer with the Pride Liberation Project, said in a statement.

Openly gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in a statement said “these new model policies, which are in flagrant violation of Virginia law, will do serious harm to transgender students. They are not based in science or compassion and will lead to students being outed before they are ready, increased bullying and harassment of marginalized youth, and will require students to jump through legal hoops just to be referred to with their proper name.”

Ebbin joined several hundred students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria in a rally opposing the model policies proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

“The new policy drafts are only going to do more harm to trans students who are already at risk for being outed, harassed and harmed,” Jules Lombardi, a Fairfax County high school senior, told the Washington Blade. “These drafts will take schools, which are supposed to be safe environments for students, and make them spaces where students have to hide themselves for fear of their parents finding out about their identities.”

“This isn’t a matter of ‘parental rights,’ it’s a matter of human rights and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as cis students,” Lombardi added.

Students in more than 90 schools across Virginia participated in walkouts on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Andrea-Grace Mukuna, a senior at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, told the Blade that “gender affirmation matters. Something so easily given to cisgender people is a right that our trans and gender non conforming youth deserve. I am walking out because schools will no longer be a safe place for queer students to be in if these policies get passed.”

“Requirements for teachers to refer to students by their birth name and pronouns aligning with their sex, rather than trusting our students to know themselves and who they are best, reinforces the idea that we as students have no power, no control and no knowledge over anything in our lives. Gender queer youth exist, and no policy can change that,” Mukuna said.

Mukuna continued, “making an attempt at denying them their ability to be who they are is a malicious attack on vulnerable students that could cause deathly harm.”

“I walk out for my queer community — there is no erasing us,” Mukuna said.

Several hundred students walked out of McLean High School. The walkout was lead by members of the school’s GSA and organizers from the Pride Liberation Project including McLean High School senior Casey Calabia.

Calibia asked the crowd, “Do we want Gov. Youngkin to understand that this is not what Virginia looks like?”

The crowd roared, “yes!”

“Virginia stands for trans kids. Trans and queer people are a fact of humanity. We will be accepted one way or another and to see everybody here today is another step toward that change,” said Calibia through a bull horn.

Calibia told the Blade in a pre-walkout statement said “to call these policies in favor of respecting trans students’ rights and privacy is to call an apple an orange. The 2022 Transgender Model policies, even as a draft, have begun to actively hurt my community’s mental health.”

“Instead of focusing on academics and our future, we have to sit in class and wonder if we will be safe in school,” Calibia concluded. “To not only take away the 2021 policies, a cornerstone in LGBTQIA+ rights for Virginia, but to mock them with these replacements, is a devastating blow to myself, trans students, queer students, and the whole of Virginia’s public school student body. How can we be safe, if we can be taken out of school-provided counseling, maliciously misgendered, and denied opportunities given to other students simply because of our gender? Accepting queer students in class does not indoctrinate or brainwash kids. It tells queer students like me that it is okay and safe to be ourselves in school.”

Students walk out of McLean High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to protest the Youngkin administration’s school policies
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The student protests in Virginia have made national news.

“This is a president who supports the LGBTQI+ community and has been supporting that community for some time now as a vice president, as senator, and certainly as president now,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in response to a question about the protests during her daily press briefing. “And he . . . always is proud to speak out against the mistreatment of that community … We believe and he believes transgender youth should be allowed to be able to go to school freely, to be able to express themselves freely, to be able to have the protections that they need to be who they are.”

“When it comes to this community, he is a partner, and he is a strong ally, as well as the vice president,” Jean-Pierre stated.

Walkouts and rallies were held at middle and high schools in Arlington, Bedford, Buchanan, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Henrico, James City, Loudoun, Louisa, Montgomery, Powhatan, Prince George’s, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and York Counties as well as in the cities of Chesapeake, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Williamsburg and Winchester.

“Every parent wants Virginia’s laws to ensure children’s safety, freedom, and to encourage a vibrant and engaging learning experience. But the Virginia Department of Education is rejecting those shared values by advancing policies that will target LGBTQ kids for harassment and mistreatment simply because of who they are,” said Ebbin.

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Virginia

Virginia’s new guidelines stipulates parental input on trans kids

“A trans youth who is not openly out to family effectively would be forcibly outed which would cause serious harm in most cases”

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During his back-to-school rally in Fairfax County, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin blasted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) transgender and gender expansive student policy, called Regulation 2603. (Screenshot WJLA ABC 7)

RICHMOND – The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Education released its new guidelines Friday that requires school administrators, faculty, and staff receive written permission from parents regarding embracing or recognizing a trans student’s gender identity.

With today’s release, the Department of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2021 Model Policies”), adopted on March 4, 2021, was effectively repealed and replaced. The emphasis in Friday’s document was centered on ‘parental rights.’ The new set of guidelines also took aim at the 2021 guidance noting:

The 2021 Model Policies promoted a specific viewpoint aimed at achieving cultural and
social transformation in schools. The 2021 Model Policies also disregarded the rights of parents and ignored other legal and constitutional principles that significantly impact how schools educate students, including transgender students. With the publication of these 2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (the “2022 Model Policies”), the Department hereby withdraws the 2021 Model Policies, which shall have no further force and effect
.”

The language reflects a campaign promise by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to respect parental rights in public education. LGBTQ+ advocates however, expressed alarm over the section reading:

The phrase ‘transgender student’ shall mean a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school,” the guidelines read.

Parents are in the best position to work with their children … to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” the policy continues.”

A trans activist who has children enrolled in the Fairfax County School District, the state’s largest school system and who asked to not be identified, told the Blade that in effect, a trans youth who is not openly out to family effectively would be forcibly outed which would cause serious harm in most cases.

The other aspect the activist noted that the guidelines effectively require school staff and faculty to misgender trans students.

Excepts:

School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only (i) the name that appears in the student’s official record, or (ii) if the student prefers, using any nickname commonly associated with the name that appears in the student’s official record.

School Division] personnel shall refer to each student using only the pronouns
appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record – that is, male
pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a
student whose legal sex is female
.

Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3) of this section,
[School Division] personnel shall refer to a student by a name other than one in
the student’s official record, or by pronouns other than those appropriate to the
sex appearing in the student’s official record, only if an eligible student or a
student’s parent has instructed [School Division] in writing that such other
name or other pronouns be used because of the student’s persistent and sincere
belief that the student’s gender differs from his or her sex.

Any written instruction from a parent or eligible student under paragraph (4) of
this section shall be memorialized in the student’s official record and subject to
the same retention, disclosure, and confidentiality requirements as the official
record itself. The legal name and sex of a student shall not be changed, even upon the written instruction of a parent or eligible student
.

The state’s governor has waged war on the LGBTQ+ community, focused especially on trans youth. At the beginning of September at a rally in Annandale, in the suburban Washington D.C. metropolitan region, Gov. Youngkin called for schools to out trans and gender nonconforming students to their parents and guardians, prompting a rebuke from GLSEN. 

The organization’s Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers condemned the Governor’s comments in an exclusive emailed statement to The Los Angeles Blade, writing: “It’s devastating to see politically motivated attempts to break trust between students and educators and to force educators to violate students’ privacy by outing them to guardians.” 

They added, “This kind of hostile school climate puts trans youth at greater risk of harassment, mental health challenges or discrimination. Transgender and nonbinary students need respect and autonomy, not additional scrutiny and policing of their gender identity in school.”

“They think that parents have no right to know what your child is discussing with their teacher or their counselor, particularly when some of the most important topics, most important topics that a child may want to discuss are being determined,” the Governor said during the rally.

“What’s their name? What pronoun will they use? How are they going to express their gender? This is a decision that bureaucrats in Fairfax County believe that they should be able to make without telling parents,” Gov. Youngkin said. 

Protecting students’ privacy is a core element of “A Guide for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” published by GLSEN and the ACLU. 

Equality Virginia on Thursday announced it will track whether school boards have implemented the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release notes “almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students” since their issuance in 2020. 

“These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students,” said Rahaman. “School boards in every corner of our commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”

Equality Virginia in its press release further noted the School Board Policy and Meeting Tracker will “provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted” the guidelines.

The other issue within the new set of guidelines the activist told the Blade, is that the language almost nullifies the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of then high school student Gavin Grimm who fought against his school policy on use of school restrooms and changing rooms.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Gloucester County, Virginia, School District’s policies that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender” and denied them transcripts that correspond to their gender identity was unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June of 2021 declined to hear the case upholding the 4th Circuit ruling.

Additionally reporting by Christopher Kane and Michael K. Lavers

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Virginia school board votes 5-2 to adopt hate group ADF’s policy

A policy that requires transgender students to submit a request to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity

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Hanover Schools parents and allies of transgender students (Photo Credit: ACLU of Virginia)

ASHLAND, Va. – In a closed door session the Hanover County School Board in suburban Richmond, Virginia, voted 5-2 to approve a policy that requires Hanover’s transgender students to submit a request to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity and gives the school board the authority to approve or deny those requests.

In the policy approved Tuesday night, school staff and administrators can request a meeting with the student and their parents/guardians, and “will receive all relevant information, which may include:”

  • a statement from the student that, among other things, specifies their gender identity and how they have consistently, persistently and insistently expressed that identity
  • signed statements from the student’s personal physician, therapist or licensed counselor verifying that the student has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and/or that the student consistently and authentically expresses a binary gender identity
  • statements from the student’s parent or guardian
  • student disciplinary or criminal records
  • information related to the privacy and safety of other students
  • any other relevant information, including documents from other interested parties

The school board voted 4-3 last March to allow the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBTQ+ legal firm listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to offer a free legal review of the school district’s policy regarding equal educational opportunities.

At the time then Board Chair Ola Hawkins provided the following statement:

The School Board voted last night to engage Alliance Defending Freedom for legal review of Policy 7-1.2 at no cost to HCPS. On behalf of the School Board, I do not have anything further to add to this other than what was discussed and decided upon.”

According to current Board Chair John F. Axselle III, the policy was an effort between the board, its attorney and counsel from ADF. 

Virginia lawmakers passed a state law in 2020 requiring all 133 of the state’s school districts to adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the Virginia Department Of Education’s model policies before September 2021. In November of 2021, the Hanover County School Board struck down a measure that would have made bathrooms more accessible to trans students but did approve minor changes favoring trans kids.

In a 4-3 vote not to move forward, the board shot down a measure that would allow trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, but did approve policy revisions that will allow for school officials to “use the name and gender consistent with the student’s gender identity,” upon request of the student and parent.

That decision led the Virginia ACLU to file a lawsuit against the board on behalf of five parents of transgender students.

Hanover Schools Attorney Lisa Seward said a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board — in which Gavin Grimm, a trans man, sued the Gloucester County School Board after he was barred from using the boys restroom — would protect the current policy. 

The appeals court ruled that not letting Grimm use the correct restroom was unconstitutional and violated his rights under Title IX. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year, leaving in place that ruling. 

Earlier this month  a coalition of the Commonwealth’s leading advocacy organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) equality responded to Hanover County School Board’s (HCSB) Policy 7-1.7 Restroom and Locker Room policy, which was approved Tuesday.

“This is not just about bathrooms or locker rooms. It’s about the right of transgender students to exist in public spaces without having to justify or explain themselves,” said Breanna Diaz, Policy & Legislative Counsel at the ACLU of Virginia. “Yet, the Hanover County School Board’s proposed policy seeks to do just that by imposing an invasive policy that will deter youth from accessing school facilities. The school board must listen to Hanover families and oppose the proposed policy and immediately adopt a bathroom and locker room policy consistent with the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies.”

“The rights of transgender and non-binary students in Hanover County are not up for debate,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “The Hanover County School Board’s unnecessary and discriminatory policy will lead to more harm for transgender and non-binary students in Hanover public schools.”

“The Hanover County NAACP continues to advocate for the full rights of all Hanover Students and teachers. Hanover has exhibited a pattern of refusing to be an inclusive community,” said Pat Hunter-Jordan, President of Hanover County NAACP. “In the 1950’s schools were closed rather than following the law to integrate. Rather than renaming schools to avoid further harm to students of color, we had to sue them for our rights. And yet, here we are again. Rather than allow our transgender student population their full rights, Hanover schools are wasting taxpayer money, once again in the court system.  We will continue to advocate until Justice is served and until inclusivity and equity are a normal part of Hanover culture and tradition.”

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